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Small Kombucha Advice

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buchking01

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Hey, I've been wanting to start a small kombucha business, however I'm only experienced in making very small batches of kombucha and I need some advice on what equipment I need in order to make enough to sell at a small farmers' market. Right now for personal consumption, I use one 2 gal glass jar for my "scoby hotel," I use several 32 oz mason jars for the first ferment, and I have 12 smallish swing top bottles for flavoring/2nd ferment.

What size/how many vessels/bottles should I invest in? I'm also not sure what material is the best for both affordability and safety - I've heard glass is very safe, but a 5 gallon glass jar is around $70 and a 5 gallon plastic jar can be found for like $20. The only stainless steel vessels I've found were pretty expensive too: usually over $100. As far as bottles go, I have no clue.

Any advice?
 
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buchking01

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I was kind of concerned of using plastic - would this ported fermonster be okay although it is plastic?
 

hottpeper13

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If you notice that the commercial brands have 2 versions. 1- Raw, has must be 21 to purchase. 2- Pasteurized, anyone can buy. The most important part of the vessel is the tap, make sure it has one for sampling and bottling. Whats wrong with a brew bucket made of stainless? once you sell to public all processes must be done in accordance with FDA regulations (complete washdown kitchen), just one of many!
 
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buchking01

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If you notice that the commercial brands have 2 versions. 1- Raw, has must be 21 to purchase. 2- Pasteurized, anyone can buy. The most important part of the vessel is the tap, make sure it has one for sampling and bottling. Whats wrong with a brew bucket made of stainless? once you sell to public all processes must be done in accordance with FDA regulations (complete washdown kitchen), just one of many!
I think I'm fine. The market I'm selling at is extremely small and "under-the-table" so to speak, there's no FDA requirements or kitchen inspections or anything - last year I actually made and sold bread (another vendor made cakes, jarred pickles/jams, etc.) at the market without any kitchen inspections. Technically, I wouldn't even be able to use my kitchen because I have pets in the house.

Theoretically, if I do get caught by the state health department for selling kombucha without a license or commercial kitchen, how severe would the consequences be? This is in North Carolina btw.
 
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buchking01

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There's the question you need to answer.

Tax evasion is pretty serious from my understanding.
If my kombucha is below .5% alcohol, I doesn't apply to the alcohol tax so therefore it wouldn't be tax evasion?
 

RPh_Guy

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If my kombucha is below .5% alcohol, I doesn't apply to the alcohol tax so therefore it wouldn't be tax evasion?
Exemption requirement per TTB:
"Kombucha is NEVER at or above 0.5% alcohol by volume during production, at time of bottling, or after bottling"

Staying under 0.5% ABV requires a careful process.
Add sugar to reach no more than s.g. 1.0035, ferment, stabilize and then sweeten? That's doable.

I'm not sure what other federal or local regulations may apply to food production or sale thereof. However, I'd wager it's going to subject to taxation, even if it's non-alcoholic. I'd suggest you talk to your city officials. There may be licenses you need and inspections of your operation, etc.
 

Atalanta

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When I do my baking for retail, I use a commercial kitchen. I'm in PA and there are places where you can rent space, I too have pets and can't have my kitchen licensed. Taxing doesn't necessarily refer to alcohol tax, since you're selling there's retail tax. You can sometimes get away with not having a tax number at a local flea market or other small event.

As for vessels, again I'm speaking from a relatively urban area. Craigslist is my friend. I've bought all sorts of equipment through that. People decide they're not brewing anymore and sell off whole systems. I did my own "soda stream" for about $100 - a 20lb CO2 tank, high-pressure regulator, 5 gallon corny keg, plus all the fittings. I would look there for inexpensive equipment.
 
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